Matthew Flinders: Explorer who 'named' Australia to be reburied in Lincolnshire

Explorer Matthew Flinders, coined as the man who named Australia, is returning home to Lincolnshire - 250 years after he was born.

Captain Flinders was the first man to circumnavigate Australia and has huge significance there, appearing on banknotes and stamps.

He died in London in 1814, aged 40, and his remains were thought to have been lost. But, in 2019, his coffin was unearthed as part of works on the HS2 rail project.

Since then, a campaign was started to bring him home to Lincolnshire and he will now be buried in his home village of Donington, near Spalding.

Jane Pearson, who chairs the campaign group, told ITV News: "Where else could he go? There’s no other place.

"Many of his family are buried in the cemetery including his brother, his parents, his grandparents.

"So the opportunity to give him his due tribute after all of these years… we had no option but to do it."

Among the members of the 'Matthew Flinders Bring Him Home' group are some of his direct descendants - including his great great great granddaughter, Rachel Flinders Lewis.

She said: "Me and my sisters have always grown up knowing our family story, so it’s really nice for us as a family, as well as his home town, to be able to put him to rest where we believe he would have wanted to be.

"Hopefully the plans that are being made will help to really spread the word and at least celebrate some of his achievements."

Flinders is credited with popularising the name Australia and the maps he produced on his voyages in the 1790s and early 1800s were the first to accurately depict the country as it is now known. 

He will now be laid to rest at St Mary and the Holy Rood Church in Donington, where he was baptised. 

His final resting place will be marked with a ledger stone, and a number of events are being planned for next summer. 

The visitors' book in the church bears witness to Flinders' huge significance to historians and the curious who have travelled from all over the world.

Many of the names hail from faraway Australia and New Zealand, but there are others, too, from closer, more local addresses.

Among those intending to travel to Donington for the reburial next year is academic Dr Gillian Dooley from Flinders University in Adelaide, who wrote a book about the explorer.

She said: "There’s something like a thousand or more places officially named after him [in Australia] including my university - every city has a street named after him.

"He was very accurate in his mapping and his maps were still being used until remarkably recently, so he has an important place in Australian navigation history.

"People already travel to Donington to see the place where he was from, so I think the reburial will make it even more a site of pilgrimage for people."

For those in Donington, bringing Flinders home represents an opportunity to properly re-evaluate the man and his achievements.

Cllr Paul Redgate of South Holland District Council said: "We’re talking about one of the greatest underrated explorers of his time.

"To bring him back home… for people of Australia and hopefully the rest of the area, it’s a chance to come and see [and] learn about the man and what he did.

"It puts us on the map, it really does."

The pandemic delayed Flinders' reinterment in 2020, but with a grant from the government's Levelling Up fund, it will now proceed next year.

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